A United Nations independent expert today called on Papua New Guinea to reinforce mechanisms that protect women against violence.
“Accountability, rather than impunity, should become the norm for all acts of violence against women,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo. “The responsibility to prevent violence, protect against violence, provide remedies for victims, and to punish perpetrators for all acts of violence against women, is primarily an obligation of the State.”
Ms. Manjoo, who yesterday finished her fact-finding mission in the Pacific country, also urged authorities to address some traditional practices that are harmful to women, stating that even though tradition plays an important role in the daily lives of the population, violence should not be tolerated under any circumstances.
“Violence against women is a pervasive phenomenon in Papua New Guinea, with a wide range of manifestations occurring in the home, the community and institutional settings,” Ms. Manjoo said, noting in her preliminary findings that many women are subjected to physical and sexual violence by male family members.
“Domestic violence is socially perceived as a normal aspect of a woman's life and a family matter that should not be discussed publicly,” she added.
Polygamy was also identified by Ms. Manjoo as a common cause of violence in the family, as abuse usually starts with neglect towards the first wife and her children, and can escalate into violence, and in some cases murder. In addition, Ms. Manjoo said that complaints of violence and sexual abuse of women by the police while in detention has become a systemic issue.
Ms. Manjoo welcomed a number of measures adopted by the Government such as family and sexual violence units set up by the police, the women and children's desks set up through community policing, and the family and sexual offence unit of the office of the public prosecutor.
However, she also noted the lack of adequate human and financial resources for such initiatives, and expressed the hope that such units could be strengthened and replicated at the country's provincial and district levels.
During her fact-finding mission last week, Ms. Manjoo met with government officials, national and provincial authorities, and members of the Autonomous Bougainville Government. She also held meetings with representatives of civil society organisations, UN agencies and donors.